Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week’s Top Ten list is a freebie, so I checked out the archives of previous topics that I missed. My eye was immediately caught by Top Ten Books I’d Want on a Desert Island, even though it makes me feel rather panicky to imagine having only ten books to read and reread for the rest of my life. How could I possibly choose? What would my criteria be? Do I dare bring a book I’ve never read before? A La Recherche du Temps Perdu might be a fine choice, since it’s over three thousand pages long, and if I really wanted a challenge, I could bring along a French dictionary and read it in the original. But what if I hated it and never wanted to reread it? And so it seems best to stick with books that I’ve read or at least dipped into.
Still, it’s challenging to choose. Do I want to be entertained or made wiser by my reading? Mostly, I think, I would want a balance of comfortable books to sink into and live in and challenging books to make me think and wonder.
If I had to select one perfect book, it would be Emma. The characters are some of my favorites in literature. Mr. Woodhouse and his gruel. Miss Bates’s incessant chatter. Mrs. Elton’s upstartish ways. Mr. Knightley’s quiet disapproval. The situations never fail to engage me. And the sentences are perfect.
I think Emma is the more perfect novel, but on some days at least, Persuasion is my personal favorite Austen. Another book that I never seem to grow tired of, no matter how many times I read it.
Because it’s massive and will keep me very busy. Because I’ve read some but nowhere close to all. Because essays are eminently re-readable. Because Montaigne is both wise and funny.
Because I’m stuck on a desert island and I’m going to need some perspective. And also, I will now have plenty of time to meditate.
On the off chance that I have a stash of notebooks and pens, I will need a book to inspire writing, and this is the one I return to again and again. So many of Goldberg’s observations about writing apply to living as well.
A novel about a precocious girl who wants to write and her zany, wonderful family. I sometimes pick it up just to admire that perfectly engaging first sentence and can’t help continuing to read. I’m not sure I’d want to live with any of the Mortmains, except perhaps for Heloise, the dog, but I sure do love reading about them.
If the Casson family asked me to move in, I’d definitely say yes. In fact, if they were real, I’d invite myself. All of Hilary McKay’s books in this series are wonderful, but Indigo’s Star is my favorite.
This is totally cheating, since Virginia Woolf’s Diaries are published in five volumes, but it’s one of my favorite books and one that I think I could read and reread many times without getting bored. I feel the same way about Woolf’s Letters (also collected in five volumes, I believe), so it might be a toss-up which to bring.
Oh hell, bring them both. What other book could possibly bring more pure delight and wisdom? It’s like getting mail from the wittiest, most brilliant friend you can imagine with just the right amounts of snark and humility.
I almost worried that I have read The King of Attolia too many times already and wouldn’t have enough to discover and appreciate as a desert island book. But then I came to my senses. Eugenides is possibly my favorite character in all of literature in what is most definitely my favorite of Megan Whalen Turner’s four books in The Queen’s Thief series. Of course I need to have it with me. Can I bring a device so I can listen to Jeff Woodman’s masterful narration of the audio?
What about you? What’s one (or more!) book(s) that would be on your desert island Top Ten?
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